ENGAGED! (No, Star Trek fans, I’m not pretending I’m Captain Jean-Luc Picard)

Saturday night Yoli and I cooked pizza and then we got engaged.

We’ve been planning this for a while, and I must admit to you now that I left all the details related to our engagement out of my entries for the past two weeks so it would be a surprise.

It didn’t happen exactly as we originally envisioned, but it still went well. She said yes and she’s wearing the ring, and that’s the main thing. :)

Let me begin at the beginning. About 2 weeks ago or so, we went to a joyero (jeweller) recommended to us by another couple who were recently engaged. We met with him and picked out an engagement ring and two wedding rings.

I wasn’t really sure what I would be expected to do in asking Yoli to marry me. I didn’t know if there was a common custom, or if her dad would expect me to first ask his permission. Yoli and I talked about it, and she came up with a good idea. Our plan was to come over on Saturday and make pizza for the whole family. Then, at some point during the meal, I would get everyone’s attention and ask Yoli to marry me.

Well, things never quite turn out exactly how you plan them.

The first problem was that I didn’t have as much money as I thought, and so we had to overcome some financial obstacles before getting the rings.

I also got another curveball from my folks when I chatted with them Thursday morning. They both strongly suggested that I get permission from Yoli’s dad. What they said made a lot of sense, and I didn’t want to insult him if he expected me to do it. I was worried, though, about my ability to communicate with him. Yoli and I talked about it later in the day and decided we did need to ask permission and that I would do it that very night.

We picked up the rings Thursday afternoon. To keep the rings a surprise, Yoli wasn’t allowed to look at them, but we did try them on her, to make sure they fit right. I really like the wedding rings. The engagement ring was not quite what I thought it would be, but it was still very beautiful.

My talk with Yoli’s parents went well. We had planned to go to Yoli’s house then go with her dad and brothers-in-law to shoot some pool. When we got there, the place was mostly empty, so I decided I probably wouldn’t have a better chance to talk with him alone. I told Don Hector I needed to talk with him, and he asked if I wanted to talk with Doña Lucila as well. I told him yes. Unfortunately, Yoli’s mom didn’t know what it was I wanted to talk about. She thought I just wanted to chat. So she spent about 15 or 20 minutes cleaning everything in sight, I suppose preparing for an evening of talk.

Sara, Yoli’s youngest sister, was also home in her bedroom (which she shares with Yoli). Yoli wasn’t to happy about that, but there wasn’t much she could do. Sara was going to overhear everything. Yoli’s nieces (Leya and Jessi) were also around, but eventually they obeyed orders and went to their room.

Finally I sat down with Don Hector and Doña Lucila and told them “Quiero pedirle permiso para casarse con su hija” (I want to ask permission to marry your daughter). They asked about our plans and such. I was able to explain myself pretty well. As usual, my trouble was understanding the things they were saying and asking me. But overall the conversation went well, and they both said they thought Yoli and I would be very happy together and gave me permission. Eventually Yoli joined us in the room and helped bail me out of my Spanish comprehension difficulties. We ended up not having time to shoot pool and decided we’d do it another night.

Sara, of course, relayed these events to most of her sisters, but I told Yoli not to worry. We could still surprise them with the engagement–after all, she wasn’t wearing the ring yet.

The days passed quickly. I had spent time preparing some words to say for Saturday night, but I ended up tossing them out. I worked with Yoli on the specific question (“Quieres casarte conmigo?” or “Do you want to marry yourself with me?”). On Saturday I mentally composed some new lines to use that night. I wanted to thank the family for all the kindness they’d shown me and explain that I had come to Bolivia for Yoli — to learn about her country, her family, her way of life…and to ask her an important question.

Eventually we made our way to Yoli’s house. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but brought some dress clothes to change into. When we arrived, we began working on the pizzas.

Yoli had made some pizza sauce a few days before hand from fresh tomatoes. I was really afraid of what it would taste like, though, because she had combined two different recipes, one of which included the word “Ketchup” in the name. My fears later proved to be completely unfounded.

Earlier in the week we had purchased the necessary ingredients — pizza crusts (orange-colored here), mozzarella cheese (expensive compared to regular Bolivian cheese, but I insisted), and thin sliced ham. To make the pizza, first we grated the mozzarella cheese. Yoli brought extra Bolivian cheese because she didn’t think we had enough mozzarella (and she was right). After we finished that, I cut the ham while she spread sauce on the first crust. Then I put on the ham and cheese, and we put it in the oven.

Our hands were a little messy and by that point, and Yoli asked if I still wanted to change clothes. I decided not to, since we had 3 more pizzas to make. So, already our plans were changing… but the biggest difference was that the family didn’t all sit down to eat together. Yoli gave a dinner call and everyone came in. We prayed and then passed out 1 slice of pizza each. The pizza tasted very good, it turned out very well. Some people stayed in the main room, Yoli’s dad and two nieces went in his bedroom to watch TV, and others went outside to eat.

This was a problem. We had thought everyone would be at a table, making it easy for me to interrupt their eating at some point and make the proposal. Instead, we were missing 4 people (Juan, Boris, Eliza, and Melanie) and were going to lose others at some point (Alcides, Lucy, and Sara wanted to go to church).

We didn’t want to leave anyone out, but it seemed clear that we weren’t going to get everyone there at the same time. So I told Yoli that she should call everyone in for the third pizza and after I cut the pizza up (using a regular knife… no pizza-cutters here), I would do my thing.

The third pizza came out, Yoli called everyone in (“Come on Alcides, please eat one more before you go….”), and I then I said in a loud voice “Su atención, por favor.” I had to get Don Hector and the nieces back in the room. I thanked the family for their hospitality in my broken Spanish and said a few more things before dropping to one knee and proposing to Yoli.

It was very special for me, and my hand trembled. Yoli was close to tears, even though she had known what would happen. I pulled the ring box out of my pocket. It was a simple plastic box, not the fancy padded clamshell type we use in the States. I had wrapped the ring in Kleenex to keep it from rattling in my pocket. We had considered “borrowing” a fancier ring box that belonged to Sara (without her knowing), but I decided not to do that.

We got the ring on, and everyone was very excited. The sisters present were making those chirping noises that girls make during such moments. Alcides was there, and seemed moved emotionally. He wished me “Felicidades” as did the others. We had succeeded in surprising everyone and making a very special memory.

Looking back, it’s incredible to me that this all worked out. I’m thankful to God for the beautiful, intelligent, helpful woman he put in my life. He’s full of surprises — Four years ago, I never would have guessed that I would one day come to the heart of South America and propose to a Bolivian woman in Spanish. But here I am!

If you have a moment, please pray for Yoli and I. Our hope is to be married in about six months, but our plans depend on how long it takes the INS to process our request for a fianceé visa. Of course between now and then there will be plans and preparations to make, and I will be looking for full-time work. We would both greatly appreciate your prayers.

About Josh Renaud

Josh Renaud is married to Yoli and together they have four beautiful niñitos. Find him on Twitter (@Kirkman) or Google+.
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26 Responses to ENGAGED! (No, Star Trek fans, I’m not pretending I’m Captain Jean-Luc Picard)

  1. Maria Esther says:

    Josh, estoy muy feliz por ti y Yolange. I am very happy for you and Yolange.
    Yolange is a good friend of mine for couple years. It is just incredible that both of us will get married the same year.
    Felicidades!!!!!Congratulations!!!
    Please let me know if you need any help.
    I’ll be praying for both of you.
    Blessings,
    Maria Esther

  2. Judi says:

    Felicidades….somehow, Josh, I knew this was coming even w/out your saying so beforehand. But your story of how your engagement came about is both touching and funny and inspiring. Yesterday I asked the congregation of our church to pray for you and Yoli and for your safe flight home. Who knows what the next four years will have in store for you? We will all stay tuned.

  3. Michelle says:

    I’m very happy for you, congratulations.
    Michelle

  4. Farika says:

    Josh,
    Congratulations for the engagement!
    I do not really know what to say, but I am happy for both Yoli & you. Tell Yoli Ika says “Hi” !
    I haven’t attended Bible Study since school starts, & I didn’t go to St.Louis too often, but I think I can make it on Sat, Feb 22.
    GOD bless u…
    -Ika-

  5. Justin says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! Josh, Becca and I are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo happy for you and Yoli. It is pretty wild to think that you will be getting married. I can truly apprecite the joy you must feel, since it wasn’t that long ago that I was placing a ring on a finger myself. I am so glad that you found the love of your life….it is funny how they have a tendency to come from those places where you least expect them. I was just thinking about that the other day. The Lord truly is amazing though, and with him as your foundation, you will both have an incredible marriage. Since I am a seasoned veteran at this whole marriage thing, and Becca seems to know a little about it too, just let us know if there is anything you need or any advice we can offer.
    Hey Mom and Dad 2 down, 1 to go =) Next thing you know, Jonny Boy will be gettin hitched. (I guess that wouldn’t be a very pleasant surprise quite yet) Give it a few years though….
    Mom, I will be willing to wager that your first grandchild will come from them (you can start busting them down now too) HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    We Love You!!!!
    Justin and Becca

  6. steve says:

    Congrats Josh! I’m very happy for the both of you! :)

  7. Mark says:

    Felicidades from me too. It looks like we are starting a new trend, Bolivian fiance�s are definitely the way to go. Keep us posted so we can give/receive advice on the whole multicultural engagement process. Blessings to you both.
    Mark

  8. Yoli says:

    Even thought our plans were a little changed, that was an unforgettable night. Josh’s words deeply touched not only my heart, but also my family. Each one of them was moved. And when I looked at his eyes asking if I wanted to marry him, I just wanted to cry… His eyes were like a window to his soul. He looked so pure, so honest, and I could feel his love… And I never felt so loved like that day…
    And now I’m playing with this ring, trying to get used to. I have had some funny experiences… Some people told me I should be careful in case someone tries to steal it… Even someone gave me a tip of moving the ring so the stone would be hidden on the other side of my finger. I tried that, but I forgot I did it and when I was trying to kill a mosquito in my shoulder, it not only killed the poor insect, but also left a mark on my shoulder… o well :)
    I deeply thank your comments and your prayers for us. Right now I feel like the most blessed woman in the world. Pray for us… It will be hard to say Josh good bye… I have experienced that the first 3 months are the hardest. The good thing is that this time I will be busy planning the wedding :)
    Thanks again,
    Yoli

  9. Gary Grace says:

    Now why am I not surprised??? Congratulations to both of you!!! I am anxious to meet you Yoli. Josh is a very special young man and I know you are very special as well. The true adventure begins. My prayers are with you both.
    Gary

  10. Jim Renaud says:

    Congrats Josh and Yoli. I’m glad we were able to see you at Justin’s wedding last month. It’s hard to believe that two out of the three Joe Renaud boys are married. Guess I’m getting old. We’ll pray for you and Yoli so her visa will be approved promptly.
    Love from Texas,
    Jim, Shelly, Aaron, and Ariel

  11. Carolyn says:

    The Hammond ladies are making those chirping noises girls do at times like these! Congratulations to you both from the whole household. We are delighted that God has brought you together and we are eager to meet Yoli. We will agree with you that the INS moves swiftly – what’s a little goverment agency compared to a mighty God?
    Carolyn, Sam, Caitlin & Elise

  12. Natasha says:

    WOW!! congradulations Yoli.. we are so happy for you… i pray that God will bless you in this time and that he will fill your heart with great gladness.. i also pray that the sorrow of your parting will be made easier knowing that you will soon be together forever… Dios te Bendiga
    love from Canada…
    natasha and john

  13. Dunkin says:

    Congrats!!! I wish you both the best.

  14. Sonja Bice says:

    Yoli…felicidades, estoy muy feliz por ti. I can’t wait to meet Josh, this is such a God thing and i will be praying for you both.
    Love you,
    Sonja

  15. T.R. & Lucy says:

    Congratulations!!! We knew that it was just a matter of time until you made the leap! We’ll be waiting to hear about the wedding arrangements!
    �Las bendiciones m�s ricas del dios a tu!

  16. Doug says:

    Congratulations!!! I’m so happy for you :) You continue to be in my prayers. It is exciting to see what God has been doing – and it will be great to see what surprises are yet to come!

  17. Sam says:

    Congratulations Josh and Yoli! I’m so excited for you both! And to think…..it all began at the WOW fest at Sue’s house and John upstairs in the living room :o-)
    Love you both,
    Sam

  18. Nancy says:

    Josh,
    I am very happy for you two! Congratulations!
    Nancy

  19. Steve and Cindy Tornatore says:

    Josh and Yoli!!!
    Congratulations!!! We are so happy for the both of you and know that God’s hand is on you. This will be one of the most memorable times of your lives, so have fun planning your wedding. God is good!! Love, Steve and Cindy

  20. Carol and Grandma Renaud says:

    !Felicidades! to you Joshus and Yoli. We were just counting down the days last week until your return trip home, and thought, what a nice way to seal the trip. I alreaey know Josh, that you are not the “fancier” of the family, so we will see what Yoli says about the nuptials and what is planned. Hopefully, I will get there for the big event, I am pretty positive Grandma will. We will keep on praying for you. your mom and dad, plus Yoli, her mom and dad. Here’s a big bear hug from us in south Texas!!
    Love to the both of you!

  21. Ray Horst says:

    Yoli, !que placer! First Mariela, then Maria Esther, now you…Must be something “catching” in Santa Cruz. We’re happy for you and Josh, we hope to meet him some day, and we wish you all the good stuff that God wants to give you. “Profe”

  22. Marty says:

    “La pantalones es en la pacina!”
    First off, I’m sorry that the only congratulations I could offer in spanish were that “my pants are in the pool”…but unfortunately I didnt pay much attention in high school spanish class.
    Seriously though, if I could speak spanish I would say that I hope God grants you all the blessings that you both deserve and that you will enjoy this unique experience together.
    So with that I offer you both “zapatos” and umm…”nachos”….errr….you know what, I’ll stick to my english.
    Congrats to you both!
    Marty.

  23. la elo!!!!!! says:

    YOLI!!!!!!!!
    UN ABRAZO AL ESTILO MEXICANO: APRETADISIMO!!!!!!!!
    AHHHHHHHHHHH, SORRY POR GRITAR ES QUE ESTOY RETEQUECONTENTA POR T�, EN SERIO, TAN FELIZ QUE NO TENGO PALABRAS, NETA, AY YOLI “OTO ABACHO” (OTRO ABRAZO), QUIERO QUE SEPAS QUE ESTAR� ORANDO POR USTEDES Y QUE DIOS TIENE PLANES SUPERLOCOS Y GENIALES PARA USTEDES, VA A HACER COSAS M�S ALL� DE LO QUE JAM�S HUBIERAS SO�ADO, TE VA A DAR M�S DE LO QUE SEA QUE HALLAN PEDIDO.
    MUCHISIMAS GRACIAS POR COMPARTIR JOSH Y T� CON NOSOTROS ESTA WONDERFUL NEW, NOS HA BENDECIDO UN CHORRO TAMBI�N.
    �Y PENSAR QUE FUI TESTIGO DE LA PRIMERA VEZ QUE SE VIERON!! QUI�N IBA A DECIR, FIJATE NOMAS JAJAJAJAJA!!!
    LOS QUIERO MUCHO Y QUE DIOS LOS BENDIGA UN MONT�N. MANDALE A JOSH EL ABRAZO M�S APRETADO QUE TENGAS DE MI PARTE, PERO CUIDADO, NO LO VAYAS A QUEBRAR HEHEHE.
    LOS AMA EN CRISTO
    LA ELO
    PS.- RECUERDEN QUE ESPERAMOS CON ANSIAS LOS DETALLES DE LA PEDIDA DE MANO EH???? BUENO, AL MENOS YO ESPERO QUE LO CUENTEN JAJAJAJAJA.

  24. Lauren Q says:

    Josh
    Congratulations from the Quagliata’s. That is great. You and John will both be married folk… he proposed to Melissa this past Oct. and they’re getting married Oct 18, 2003. Maybe you’ll be here then?
    Lauren Q.

  25. The Jottes says:

    Congratulations, Yoli and Josh!! What wonderful news!! We are especially thrilled if this means Yoli will become a St. Louis resident–we’re looking forward to a life-long friendship! We attended the Bolivian Society annual dinner here last month, and it’s a group Josh and Yoli will enjoy!! Hope to see you soon–Love, The Jottes

  26. mercedes says:

    Idon’t know you, but I think your story is wonderful. My boyfriend is from Bolivia, and although we are living in the states right now, this summer we will be moving to La Paz to make an engagement story of our own! What tips do you have on findng rings?